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The mid-January phone call was expected. Dennis Erickson had
left Miami to coach the Seattle Seahawks, and the Hurricanes
were interested in Sonny Lubick as a replacement. It was
perfectly logical. Lubick had been an assistant under Erickson
and had left to become coach at Colorado State two years earlier.

Lubick flew to Miami for the requisite interviews and for
another look at facilities and faces he already knew well. "We
loved living in South Florida," he says. "And as far as the
talent there, they've got as many good players as ever." The job
wasn't formally offered, but both Lubick and Miami knew that it
was his if he wanted it. He flew home to Fort Collins, Colo., a
57-year-old man ready to fulfill a dream. And then he let go.

"I fit in here," Lubick says, sitting in his office in Fort
Collins. "This is the right place for me right now."

It is presumed that coaches live on a ladder, climbing as they
work, always seeking a better job. Assistants become
coordinators, coordinators become head coaches and then go on to
jobs at more powerful schools; those head coaches then move to
the NFL. Last Jan. 17, Lubick climbed off the ladder. "I looked
at what we've got going here,'' he says, "and it looked pretty
good to me."

Lubick's decision to stay at Colorado State says a lot about
him, but also much about the program itself. In '94, the Rams
recorded the first 10-win season in school history and won the
WAC title. Lubick is so beloved in Fort Collins that a roast in
his honor in April drew 700 people. His decision to turn down
the Miami job prompted Colorado State to give him a $50,000
raise, to $200,000 a year--Miami would have paid him about
$500,000--and set a goal of selling 10,000 season tickets, which
would be a record.

Colorado State has 12 returning starters, the best among them on
defense: end Sean Moran, cornerback Ray Jackson, linebacker
Garrett Sand and free safety Greg Myers, all seniors. When Myers
first came to Fort Collins, he was a 165-pound state sprint and
pole-vault champion from the town of Windsor (pop. 6,000), just
15 minutes away. Despite his athletic skills, he seemed too puny
to play Division I football. But Myers has blossomed into a
four-year starter for the Rams, a 6'2", 193-pound free safety
with 4.4 speed and NFL prospects. He is also a biological
science major and an Academic All-America, a billboard for the
student-athlete ideal.

Myers and the rest of the D will be expected to carry the team
because the offense lost both guards, the center and quarterback
Anthoney Hill, the Rams' career total offense leader. Lubick has
four inexperienced quarterbacks to choose from: junior college
transfer Daren Wilkinson, sophomore Moses Moreno and redshirt
freshmen Ryan Eslinger and Craig Akins. The offensive line will
be rebuilt from a talent pool that "seems like it's doubled'' in
the last five years, according to offensive line coach and
former player John Benton.

The Rams' big challenge will come in their second game, against
rival Colorado. In Boulder. On ESPN. It is the type of game that
Lubick stayed at Colorado State to play. He can still recall
last Oct. 8, the day after the Rams beat Arizona 21-16 in
Tucson. Colorado State flew into Denver's Stapleton Airport and
drove home to Fort Collins in the team's green bus. "Cars were
honking at us, pulling over and waving. It was the most
incredible thing,'' he says.

The most incredible thing, no disrespect, is that Lubick is back
to chase another celebration. Colorado State football is solid
and secure.

--Tim Layden

COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD MACKSON Twelve returning starters means more Ram revelry. [Colorado State University players jumping for football during game]


Head coach: Sonny Lubick
Career college record: 36-27
Third year at Colorado State (15-8)

1994 RECORD: 10-2
WAC record: 7-1 (first)

W at Air Force 34-21
W Utah State 41-16
W at BYU 28-21
W San Diego State 19-17
W at New Mexico 38-31
W at Arizona 21-16
W at UTEP 47-9
L Utah 45-31
W Wyoming 35-24
W Arkansas State 48-3
W Fresno State 44-42
L Michigan 24-14 (Holiday Bowl)

Final '94 ranking: 16 AP, 14 USA Today/CNN

Lettermen lost: 15
Lettermen returning: 36
Returning starters, offense: 5
Returning starters, defense: 7

Sept. 9 at Colorado
Sept. 30 BYU
Oct. 14 at Utah